Follow-up after treatment for pancreatic cancer
Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for pancreatic cancer is often shared among the cancer specialists and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.
Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:
- pain in the upper abdomen or upper back
- weight loss
- jaundicejaundiceA condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes become yellow and urine is dark yellow.
- changes to digestion, including indigestion, nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
The chance of pancreatic cancer recurring is greatest within 2 years, so close follow-up is needed during this time.
Schedule for follow-up visits
Follow-up visits for pancreatic cancer are scheduled based on your personal needs.
If you have surgery to remove the tumour, you may have more frequent follow-up. This is done so doctors can find the cancer early if it comes back.
Follow-up for people with advanced metastatic cancer will depend on their physical condition and symptoms.
During follow-up visits
During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team usually asks questions about the side effects of treatment and how you are coping. They will ask you if you have any pain, and will help you cope with any eating and nutrition problems.
Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:
- feeling the abdomen
- feeling the lymph nodes
Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:
- blood chemistry tests to check for a blockage in the common bile duct or pancreatic duct or if cancer has spread to the liver
- tumour marker tests to check your response to treatment and check if the cancer has come back
- imaging tests, including a CT scan and an MRI, to check if cancer has spread
If a recurrence is found during follow-up, your healthcare team will assess you to determine the best treatment options.
Questions to ask about follow-up
To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.
Seeing my sister Erin – a young mother – struggle with the emotional blow and then the physical toll of cancer treatment made me want to do something to help women feel confident.
Support from someone who has ‘been there’
The Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support program is a telephone support service that matches cancer patients and their caregivers with specially trained volunteers.